With time running out, the efforts to evacuate Americans, allies, and Afghan partners came to a halt overnight — and not just for the US. The State Department warned Americans not to approach the airport in Kabul based on new security threats, leaving them and others with no place to go.
And the time is growing shorter than many realize:
A security threat overnight led to new chaos at the Kabul airport and brought emergency evacuations to a halt, just five days before the deadline for evacuations from Afghanistan. @KellyO has the latest. pic.twitter.com/mie0dCDjDT
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 26, 2021
Joe Biden’s deadline final withdrawal may be five days from now, but that doesn’t mean Americans have four days to get into the airport. The necessity of withdrawing the military and its materiel (such that they can take at all) will require a few days of operations. To get out by August 31, civilians might have to fly out within the next 24 hours or so — or get left behind.
That same reality now confronts other Westerners as their nations also abandoned evacuation from Kabul, apparently for good:
Several European nations announced on Thursday that they were halting their evacuations from the Kabul airport after reports a day earlier of a security threat at the airport, as the window for airlifts appeared to be closing, days before the deadline for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark all said that they would no longer be able to facilitate airlifts from the Hamid Karzai International Airport, which has both civilian and military sections. The airport has been the site of chaotic scenes since the Taliban takeover of the capital earlier this month, as tens of thousands of Afghans and foreign citizens had desperately searched for a way out.
The U.S. Embassy had warned Americans on Wednesday to stay away from the airport and told anyone outside the perimeter to “leave immediately,” citing unnamed security threats.
The British and Australian governments issued similar warnings, with Australian officials describing “an ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack.”
The Australian government also warned this morning that its citizens in Kabul should hunker down rather than attempt to get out:
In a statement to the press on Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the Australian government remains focused on safe evacuation from the Afghanistan of many Australians and visa holders as possible and for as long as possible.
“Our clear travel advice is now, do not travel to Hamid Karzai International Airport and if you are in the area of the airport, move to a safe location and await further advice,” Senator Payne said.
“Afghanistan remains highly volatile and dangerous. Be aware of the potential for violence and security threats with large crowds. There is an ongoing and very high threat of a terrorist attack,” she added.
It sounds very much like the window has closed for other Westerners. Has it closed for Americans? So far the Biden administration won’t say whether they have given up on getting our citizens out of Kabul, but the airport is their only option, thanks to the sequencing of Biden’s retreat. If they can’t neutralize whatever threat has pushed them to close the gates in the next day or so, then either Biden will have to blow past the deadline or abandon Americans to the Taliban.